Sunday 1 July 2018

28th to 30th of June On the Road Again

28th June, 2018

Warm and sunny, breezy PM

                After watching England lose to Belgium in the 2018 World Cup, I set off for Huarcarpay. The cycle ride through the city is fine enough with not too much traffic and I am soon on the main road south. The majority of the way is a gentle downhill slope but with the breeze in my face I still have to pedal.

                I soon reach the right hand turn at Haurcarpay and find a tall birdwatching platform where there is a bird hide about fifty yards out beside a lagoon. Immediately a male Cinereous Harrier passes me heading directly towards the road junction. Another one passes as I walk towards the hide. Out on the lagoon there is a single Chilean Flamingo, a few Puna and Yellow-billed Teal and Andean Coot. Two White-tufted Grebes are also on the water and a single Moorhen. More Cinereous Harriers pass, always heading in the same general direction and as it is approaching five o'clock I presume they are heading for a roost. Plumbeous Rail are squealing in the reeds and I see one scurrying through them.
                A Mountain Caracara comes down and is obviously feeding on something on a muddy area some way off. Andean Gulls come down and gather near to it but keep a safe distance. Yellow-winged Blackbirds move around and show themselves above the vegetation.
                I am staying with Mark Smith and his two girls, Isabella and Isis, tonight and together we enjoy the evening. The girls immediately make some superb biscuits and Mark cooks a meal. Their house is wooden, self-designed and perched on the hillside overlooking Huarcarpay Lake and surrounding mountains and fields. Mark is a birder and therefore the conversation mainly revolves around this topic. The two sisters are so entertaining and have a wonderful relationship with each other. They are witty, creative and fun and I am jealous of the way they can change the language they speak from Spanish to English and vice versa.

29th June, 2018

Cool early morning then warm and sunny, strong breeze coming down valley

                There can't be many better situated houses anywhere and the views from the terraces and from the main living room are stupendous in the early morning sunlight. Mark and I talk birds as around twenty Black-winged Blackbirds noisily search the adjacent maize field for food. The girls appear and for half an hour or so I wait for them to get ready to go birding. The plan is to look for Green-tailed Trainbearer and Bearded Mountaineer, both are hummingbirds that I need for my Green Bird list. Eventually Mark realises why I am waiting and states that they are not coming birding. We are outside in a flash and off along the road to go and search the area.

                We pass the soccer field and swimming pool and stroll slowly along a raised bank that follows a stream heading for the lake. A White-crested Eleania is in a bush, Hooded Siskins land in some Eucalyptus Trees, A flock of Puna Ibis feed in a flooded field and there are Rufous-collared Sparrows everywhere. Mark spots a Black-backed Grosbeak and says that it is a very rare bird here. Beside it I spot a hummer, a Green-tailed Trainbearer, the first Green Birding year tick for a long time. Nice to have both trainbearers on the list.
                We continue along the bank and find a small ground tyrant. We are not sure of whether it is a Little Ground Tyrant or a Spot-billed but it is definitely small. A Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant gives us good size comparison as the birds feed close to each other. Eventually we decide upon Spot-billed.
                An area flooded quite recently has a large area of deposited sand and from this beach we can see three small reed surrounded lagoons. A Little Blue Heron is feeding on one and there are Cinnamon Ducks and Puna Teal, White-tufted Grebes and Andean Coots with Moorhens. Another Little Blue heron flies over seemingly chasing a Cattle Egret. An adult female Variable Hawk flies over and lands on a nearby tree. Two more Spot-billed Ground Tyrants dash around the sandy terrain, reminding me of Wheatears back in the UK.
                We walk back along the bank and get onto the road that circumnavigates the lake. Mark shows me where a Great Horned Owl sometimes roosts but there is only a splash of guano and no bird. We pass tobacco plants, the favourite feeding plant for Bearded Mountaineer and we sit and hope that one turns up. One doesn't and we walk a little further before heading back.
Once back at the house Isis makes us all omelette for lunch, garden grown chard inside the eggs, and a variety of different breads with cheese male for a superb, simple meal. Time to go, the bike is packed and after thanks and goodbyes to the girls, I and Mark walk to the village together. Mark wants to check the ground tyrant with his camera and telescope. I head off back to the tobacco plants to try and find the Bearded Mountaineer. When I get there the area has been invaded by picnicking families. It is Bank Holiday here in Peru and they are enjoying the sunny day.
Through the village, I stop to buy fruit juice and then head for the bridge which to me marks the start of the Manu Road. I have a long, slow climb ahead of me, the penultimate climb of my crossing The Andes and with the weather hot and sunny and with the bridge crossed, I put my earphones in my ears, turn my MP3 player on and sing along to various Frank Zappa songs.

                The road does all the usual switchbacks and zig zags as it climbs ever higher and the usual amazement occurs whenever I look down from a seemingly great height and see where I was just moments earlier. The road has kilometre posts and by the time I reach KM 14 the sun has gone down and darkness is quickly falling. I find a hard stony platform where piles of rocks and mud have been deposited by lorries some time ago. It is private with no views of it from the road and so I set up my tent without trying to use the doubly broken larger pole and instead just place my inflatable mattress inside with my sleeping bag and crawl inside. 

My evening meal consists of a chocolate bar and potato sticks, what we used to call Chipples when we were young.

30th June, 2018

Warm and sunny, almost no cloud, breezy PM as I approach Paucartambo

                Ice on the tent, I get up and remove the rocks that I had placed on it to prevent it blowing away in the strong breeze the night before. I then drape it over some large boulders that are soon bathed in early morning sunshine. There are no clouds and there is a marked temperature difference between being in the sunlight and the shade. The tent soon dries and I enjoy my breakfast of dry Peruvian muesli, mostly sugar puffs, and fruit juice.
                On the road again, the climb continues and I pass through a small village. Friendly Buenos Dios and waves from all passed, it is a beautiful day and the views are tremendous. I stop in a village called Huancarani and have breakfast in a small cafe. Delicious trout, chips and rice with a large mug of coffee, I photograph three statues depicting local people in colourful attire. 

I then want to photograph another statue but the camera is broken -  again. It broke a few days ago and I had it repaired at a shop in Cusco. The same problem with the camera as then, the shutter won’t open and instead I have a black screen. The lens still comes out as usual and it will still take a photo but just of the black. Now this is a major disaster as I need photographs as evidence of the birds I see. I try to shock the shutter to open by carrying out the procedures suggested on the Canon problem shooting pages on the internet. No good.
                I carry on for a number of kilometres grateful for the fact that in the last year the road has been tarmacked. As it is so new there are no potholes and, on reaching the highest point of 12,879 feet, I enjoy the downward route. The next ten miles passes extremely quickly as I cycle though villages and past ancient Incan tombs. There are like small salt and pepper pots placed randomly on a the hillside, with little caps. My frustration with my broken camera grows as I would love to have photographs of not only these but also of the valley views and especially of the high snow-capped mountains to the east. Grrrrrrrrr!
                At the fifty kilometre mark the new tarmac stops and instead there are a series of roadworks and the road becomes a bumpy and very dusty dirty track. Eventually though I reach the town of Paucartambo and find a hostel. My room has a balcony overlooking the stone bridge and river and although basic, with a bunk bed and a single bed within it's small dimension, it is just the sort of place I love to stay in. Let's say it has character.
                Off into town to search for an internet shop, I instead watch the Portugal vs Argentina World Cup match with fifteen or so Peruvians in a small cafe. More rice but this time with a chicken drumstick, a young man joins me and he wants to practise his English. We sit together and watch the match. Portugal lose.

Green Year list :  275 birds                         

average new birds to list per day  :  3.02 birds 

altitude : 9,532 feet

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